The Mystery of Murray Davenport
Robert Neilson Stephens
Part 4 out of 4
this. But, through his practice of singing, as well as of reading verse
aloud for his own pleasure, he knew that his lower voice was, in the
slang phrase, 'all there.' He knew, also, of a somewhat curious way of
bringing the lower voice into predominance; of making it become the
habitual voice, to the exclusion of the higher tones. Of course one can
do this in time by studied practice, but the constant watchfulness is
irksome and may lapse at any moment. The thing was, to do it once and for
all, so that the quick unconscious response to the mind's order to speak
would be from the lower voice and no other. Davenport took Mr. Bud's
dictionary, opened it at U, and recited one after another all the words
beginning with that letter as pronounced in 'under.' This he did through
the whole list, again and again, hour after hour, monotonously, in the
lower register of his voice. He went through this practice every day,
with the result that his deeper notes were brought into such activity as
to make them supplant the higher voice entirely. Pronunciation has
something to do with voice effect, and, besides, his complete
transformation required some change in that on its own account. This was
easy, as Davenport had always possessed the gift of imitating dialects,
foreign accents, and diverse ways of speech. Earlier in life he had
naturally used the pronunciation of refined New Englanders, which is
somewhat like that of the educated English. In New York, in his
association with people from all parts of the country, he had lapsed into
the slovenly pronunciation which is our national disgrace. He had only to
return to the earlier habit, and be as strict in adhering to it as in
other details of the well-ordered life his new self was to lead.
"As I said, he was provided with shaving materials. But he couldn't cut
his own hair in the new way he had decided on. He had had it cut in the
old fashion a few days before going into retirement, but toward the end
of that retirement it had grown beyond its usual length. All he could do
about it was to place himself between two mirrors, and trim the longest
locks. Fortunately, he had plenty of time for this operation. After the
first two or three weeks, his wounds required very little attention each
day. His vocal and handwriting exercises weren't to be carried to excess,
and so he had a good deal of time on his hands. Some of this, after his
face was sufficiently toward healing, he spent in physical exercise,
using chairs and other objects in place of the ordinary calisthenic
implements. He was very leisurely in taking his meals, and gave the
utmost care to their composition from the preserved foods at his
disposal. He slept from nightfall till dawn, and consequently needed no
artificial light. For pure air, he kept a window open all night, being
well wrapped up, but in the daytime he didn't risk leaving open more than
the cracks above and below the sashes, for fear some observant person
might suspect a lodger in the room. Sometimes he read, renewing an
acquaintance which the new man he was beginning to be must naturally have
made, in earlier days, with Scott's novels. He had necessarily designed
that the new man should possess the same literature and general knowledge
as the bygone Davenport had possessed. For already, as soon as the
general effect of the operations began to emerge from bandages and
temporary discoloration, he had begun to consider Davenport as
bygone,--as a man who had come to that place one evening, remained a
brief, indefinite time, and vanished, leaving behind him his clothes and
sundry useful property which he, the new man who found himself there,
might use without fear of objection from the former owner.
"The sense of new identity came with perfect ease at the first bidding.
It was not marred by such evidences of the old fact as still remained.
These were obliterated one by one. At last the healing was complete;
there was nothing to do but remove all traces of anybody's presence in
the room during Mr. Bud's absence, and submit the hair to the skill of a
barber. The successor of Davenport made a fire in the coal stove,
starting it with the paper the parcels had been wrapped in; and feeding
it first with Davenport's clothes, and then with linen, towels, and other
inflammable things brought in for use during the metamorphosis. He made
one large bundle of the shoes, cans, jars, surgical instruments,
everything that couldn't be easily burnt, and wrapped them in a sheet,
along with the dead ashes of the conflagration in the stove. He then made
up Mr. Bud's bed, restored the room to its original appearance in every
respect, and waited for night. As soon as access to the bath-room was
safe, he made his final toilet, as far as that house was concerned, and
put on his new clothes for the first time. About three o'clock in the
morning, when the street was entirely deserted, he lugged his
bundle--containing the unburnable things--down the stairs and across the
street, and dropped it into the river. Even if the things were ever
found, they were such as might come from a vessel, and wouldn't point
either to Murray Davenport or to Mr. Bud's room.
"He walked about the streets, in a deep complacent enjoyment of his new
sensations, till almost daylight. He then took breakfast in a market
restaurant, after which he went to a barber's shop--one of those that
open in time for early-rising customers--and had his hair cut in the
desired fashion. From there he went to a down-town store and bought a
supply of linen and so forth, with a trunk and hand-bag, so that he could
'arrive' properly at a hotel. He did arrive at one, in a cab, with bag
and baggage, straight from the store. Having thus acquired an address, he
called at a tailor's, and gave his orders. In the tailor's shop, he
recalled that he had left the Bagley money in Mr. Bud's room, behind the
books on the shelf. He hadn't yet decided what to do with that money, but
in any case it oughtn't to remain where it was; so he went back to Mr.
Bud's room, entering the house unnoticed.
"He took the money from the cover it was in, and put it in an inside
pocket. He hadn't slept during the previous night or day, and the effects
of this necessary abstinence were now making themselves felt, quite
irresistibly. So he relighted the gas-stove, and sat down to rest awhile
before going to his hotel. His drowsiness, instead of being cured, was
only increased by this taste of comfort; and the bed looked very
tempting. To make a long story short, he partially undressed, lay down on
the bed, with his overcoat for cover, and rapidly succumbed.
"He was awakened by a knock at the door of the room. It was night, and
the lights and shadows produced by the gas-stove were undulating on the
floor and walls. He waited till the person who had knocked went away; he
then sprang up, threw on the few clothes he had taken off, smoothed down
the cover of the bed, turned the gas off from the stove, and left the
room for the last time, locking the door behind him. As he got to the
foot of the stairs, two men came into the hallway from the street. One of
them happened to elbow him in passing, and apologized. He had already
seen their faces in the light of the street-lamp, and he thanked his
stars for the knock that had awakened him in time. The men were Mr. Bud
Turl paused; for the growing perception visible on the faces of Florence
and Larcher, since the first hint of the truth had startled both, was now
complete. It was their turn for whatever intimations they might have to
make, ere he should go on. Florence was pale and speechless, as indeed
was Larcher also; but what her feelings were, besides the wonder shared
with him, could not be guessed.
AFTER THE DISCLOSURE
The person who spoke first was Edna Hill. She had seen Turl less often
than the other two had, and Davenport never at all. Hence there was no
great stupidity in her remark to Turl:
"But I don't understand. I know Mr. Larcher met a man coming through that
hallway one night, but it turned out to be you."
"Yes, it was I," was the quiet answer. "The name of the new man, you see,
was Francis Turl."
As light flashed over Edna's face, Larcher found his tongue to express a
certain doubt: "But how could that be? Davenport had a letter from you
before he--before any transformation could have begun. I saw it the night
before he disappeared--it was signed Francis Turl."
Turl smiled. "Yes, and he asked if you could infer the writer's
character. He wondered if you would hit on anything like the character
he had constructed out of his imagination. He had already begun
practical experiments in the matter of handwriting alone. Naturally some
of that practice took the shape of imaginary correspondence. What could
better mark the entire separateness of the new man from the old than
letters between the two? Such letters would imply a certain brief
acquaintance, which might serve a turn if some knowledge of Murray
Davenport's affairs ever became necessary to the new man's conduct. This
has already happened in the matter of the money, for example. The name,
too, was selected long before the disappearance. That explains the
letter you saw. I didn't dare tell this earlier in the story,--I feared
to reveal too suddenly what had become of Murray Davenport. It was best
to break it as I have, was it not?"
He looked at Florence wistfully, as if awaiting judgment. She made an
involuntary movement of drawing away, and regarded him with something
almost like repulsion.
"It's so strange," she said, in a hushed voice. "I can't believe it. I
don't know what to think."
Turl sighed patiently. "You can understand now why I didn't want to tell.
Perhaps you can appreciate what it was to me to revive the past,--to
interrupt the illusion, to throw it back. So much had been done to
perfect it; my dearest thought was to preserve it. I shall preserve it,
of course. I know you will keep the secret, all of you; and that you'll
support the illusion."
"Of course," replied Larcher. Edna, for once glad to have somebody's lead
to follow, perfunctorily followed it. But Florence said nothing. Her mind
was yet in a whirl. She continued to gaze at Turl, a touch of bewildered
aversion in her look.
"I had meant to leave New York," he went on, watching her with cautious
anxiety, "in a very short time, and certainly not to seek any of the
friends or haunts of the old cast-off self. But when I got into the
street that night, after you and Mr. Bud had passed me, Larcher, I fell
into a strong curiosity as to what you and he might have to say about
Davenport. This was Mr. Bud's first visit to town since the
disappearance, so I was pretty sure your talk would be mainly about that.
Also, I wondered whether he would detect any trace of my long occupancy
of his room. I found I'd forgot to bring out the cover taken from the
bankbills. Suppose that were seen, and you recognized it, what theories
would you form? For the sake of my purpose I ought to have put curiosity
aside, but it was too keen; I resolved to gratify it this one time only.
The hallway was perfectly dark, and all I had to do was to wait there
till you and Mr. Bud should come out. I knew he would accompany you
down-stairs for a good-night drink in the saloon when you left. The
slightest remark would give me some insight into your general views of
the affair. I waited accordingly. You soon came down together. I stood
well out of your way in the darkness as you passed. And you can imagine
what a revelation it was to me when I heard your talk. Do you remember?
Davenport--it couldn't be anybody else--had disappeared just too soon to
learn that 'the young lady'--so Mr. Bud called her--had been true, after
all! And it broke your heart to have nothing to report when you saw her!"
"I do remember," said Larcher. Florence's lip quivered.
"I stood there in the darkness, like a man stunned, for several minutes,"
Turl proceeded. "There was so much to make out. Perhaps there had been
something going on, about the time of the disappearance, that I--that
Davenport hadn't known. Or the disappearance itself may have brought out
things that had been hidden. Many possibilities occurred to me; but the
end of all was that there had been a mistake; that 'the young lady' was
deeply concerned about Murray Davenport's fate; and that Larcher saw her
"I went out, and walked the streets, and thought the situation over. Had
I--had Davenport--(the distinction between the two was just then more
difficult to preserve)--mistakenly imagined himself deprived of that
which was of more value than anything else in life? had he--I--in
throwing off the old past, thrown away that precious thing beyond
recovery? How precious it was, I now knew, and felt to the depths of my
soul, as I paced the night and wondered if this outcome was Fate's last
crudest joke at Murray Davenport's expense. What should I do? Could I
remain constant to the cherished design, so well-laid, so painfully
carried out, and still keep my back to the past, surrendering the
happiness I might otherwise lay claim to? How that happiness lured me! I
couldn't give it up. But the great design--should all that skill and
labor come to nothing? The physical transformation of face couldn't be
undone, that was certain. Would that alone be a bar between me and the
coveted happiness? My heart sank at this question. But if the
transformation should prove such a bar, the problem would be solved at
least. I must then stand by the accomplished design. And meanwhile, there
was no reason why I should yet abandon it. To think of going back to the
old unlucky name and history!--it was asking too much!
"Then came the idea on which I acted. I would try to reconcile the
alternatives--to stand true to the design, and yet obtain the happiness.
Murray Davenport should not be recalled. Francis Turl should remain, and
should play to win the happiness for himself. I would change my plans
somewhat, and stay in New York for a time. The first thing to do was to
find you, Miss Kenby. This was easy. As Larcher was in the habit of
seeing you, I had only to follow him about, and afterward watch the
houses where he called. Knowing where he lived, and his favorite resorts,
I had never any difficulty in getting on his track. In that way, I came
to keep an eye on this house, and finally to see your father let himself
in with a door-key. I found it was a boarding-house, took the room I
still occupy, and managed very easily to throw myself in your father's
way. You know the rest, and how through you I met Miss Hill and Larcher.
In this room, also, I have had the--experience--of meeting Mr. Bagley."
"And what of his money?" asked Florence.
"That has remained a question. It is still undecided. No doubt a third
person would hold that, though Bagley morally owed that amount, the
creditor wasn't justified in paying himself by a breach of trust. But the
creditor himself, looking at the matter with feeling rather than
thought, was sincere enough in considering the case at least debatable.
As for me, you will say, if I am Francis Turl, I am logically a third
person. Even so, the idea of restoring the money to Bagley seems against
nature. As Francis Turl, I ought not to feel so strongly Murray
Davenport's claims, perhaps; yet I am in a way his heir. Not knowing what
my course would ultimately be, I adopted the fiction that my claim to
certain money was in dispute--that a decision might deprive me of it. I
didn't explain, of course, that the decision would be my own. If the
money goes back to Bagley, I must depend solely upon what I can earn. I
made up my mind not to be versatile in my vocations, as Davenport had
been; to rely entirely on the one which seemed to promise most. I have to
thank you, Larcher, for having caused me to learn what that was, in my
former iden--in the person of Murray Davenport. You see how the old and
new selves will still overlap; but the confusion doesn't harm my sense of
being Francis Turl as much as you might imagine; and the lapses will
necessarily be fewer and fewer in time. Well, I felt I could safely fall
back on my ability as an artist in black and white. But my work should be
of a different line from that which Murray Davenport had followed--not
only to prevent recognition of the style, but to accord with my new
outlook--with Francis Turl's outlook--on the world. That is why my work
has dealt with the comedy of life. That is why I elected to do comic
sketches, and shall continue to do them. It was necessary, if I decided
against keeping the Bagley money, that I should have funds coming in
soon. What I received--what Davenport received for illustrating your
articles, Larcher, though it made him richer than he had often found
himself, had been pretty well used up incidentally to the transformation
and my subsequent emergence to the world. So I resorted to you to
facilitate my introduction to the market. When I met you here one day, I
expressed a wish that I might run across a copy of the Boydell
Shakespeare Gallery. I knew--it was another piece of my inherited
information from Davenport--that you had that book. In that way I drew an
invitation to call on you, and the acquaintance that began resulted as I
desired. Forgive me for the subterfuge. I'm grateful to you from the
bottom of my heart."
"The pleasure has been mine, I assure you," replied Larcher, with a
"And the profit mine," said Turl. "The check for those first three
sketches I placed so easily through you came just in time. Yet I hadn't
been alarmed. I felt that good luck would attend me--Francis Turl was
born to it. I'm confident my living is assured. All the same, that Bagley
money would unlock a good store of the sweets of life."
He paused, and his eyes sought Florence's face again. Still they found no
answer there--nothing but the same painful difficulty in knowing how to
regard him, how to place him in her heart.
"But the matter of livelihood, or the question of the money," he resumed,
humbly and patiently, "wasn't what gave me most concern. You will
understand now--Florence"--his voice faltered as he uttered the
name--"why I sometimes looked at you as I did, why I finally said what
I did. I saw that Larcher had spoken truly in Mr. Bud's hallway that
night: there could be no doubt of your love for Murray Davenport. What
had caused your silence, which had made him think you false, I dared
not--as Turl--inquire. Larcher once alluded to a misunderstanding, but it
wasn't for me--Turl--to show inquisitiveness. My hope, however, now was
that you would forget Davenport--that the way would be free for the
newcomer. When I saw how far you were from forgetting the old love, I was
both touched and baffled--touched infinitely at your loyalty to Murray
Davenport, baffled in my hopes of winning you as Francis Turl. I should
have thought less of you--loved you less--if you had so soon given up the
unfortunate man who had passed; and yet my dearest hopes depended on your
giving him up. I even urged you to forget him; assured you he would never
reappear, and begged you to set your back to the past. Though your
refusal dashed my hopes, in my heart I thanked you for it--thanked you in
behalf of the old self, the old memories which had again become dear to
me. It was a puzzling situation,--my preferred rival was my former self;
I had set the new self to win you from constancy to the old, and my
happiness lay in doing so; and yet for that constancy I loved you more
than ever, and if you had fallen from it, I should have been wounded
while I was made happy. All the time, however, my will held out against
telling you the secret. I feared the illusion must lose something if it
came short of being absolute reality to any one--even you. I'm afraid I
couldn't make you feel how resolute I was, against any divulgence that
might lessen the gulf between me and the old unfortunate self. It seemed
better to wait till time should become my ally against my rival in your
heart. But to-night, when I saw again how firmly the rival--the old
Murray Davenport--was installed there; when I saw how much you
suffered--how much you would still suffer--from uncertainty about his
fate, I felt it was both futile and cruel to hold out."
"It _was_ cruel," said Florence. "I have suffered."
"Forgive me," he replied. "I didn't fully realize--I was too intent on
my own side of the case. To have let you suffer!--it was more than cruel.
I shall not forgive myself for that, at least."
She made no answer.
"And now that you know?" he asked, in a low voice, after a moment.
"It is so strange," she replied, coldly. "I can't tell what I think. You
are not the same. I can see now that you are he--in spite of all your
skill, I can see that."
He made a slight movement, as if to take her hand. But she drew back,
"And yet you are not he."
"You are right," said Turl. "And it isn't as he that I would appear. I am
"And Francis Turl is almost a stranger to me," she answered. "Oh, I see
now! Murray Davenport is indeed lost--more lost than ever. Your design
has been all too successful."
"It was _his_ design, remember," pleaded Turl. "And I am the result of
it--the result of his project, his wish, his knowledge and skill. Surely
all that was good in him remains in me. I am the good in him, severed
from the unhappy, and made fortunate."
"But what was it in him that I loved?" she asked, looking at Turl as if
in search of something missing.
He could only say: "If you reject me, he is stultified. His plan
contemplated no such unhappiness. If you cause that unhappiness, you so
far bring disaster on his plan."
She shook her head, and repeated sadly: "You are not the same."
"But surely the love I have for you--that is the same--the old love
transmitted to the new self. In that, at least, Murray Davenport survives
in me--and I'm willing that he should."
Again she vainly asked: "What was it in him that I loved--that I still
love when I think of him? I try to think of you as the Murray Davenport I
"But I wouldn't have you think of me as Murray Davenport. Even if I
wished to be Murray Davenport again, I could not. To re-transform myself
is impossible. Even if I tried mentally to return to the old self, the
return would be mental only, and even mentally it would never be
complete. You say truly the old Murray Davenport is lost. What was it you
loved in him? Was it his unhappiness? His misfortune? Then, perhaps, if
you doom me to unhappiness now, you will in the end love me for my
unhappiness." He smiled despondently.
"I don't know," she said. "It isn't a matter to decide by talk, or even
by thought. I must see how I feel. I must get used to the situation. It's
so strange as yet. We must wait." She rose, rather weakly, and supported
herself with the back of a chair. "When I'm ready for you to call, I'll
send you a message."
There was nothing for Turl to do but bow to this temporary dismissal, and
Larcher saw the fitness of going at the same time. With few and rather
embarrassed words of departure, the young men left Florence to the
company of Edna Hill, in whom astonishment had produced for once the
effect of comparative speechlessness.
Out in the hall, when the door of the Kenby suite had closed behind them,
Turl said to Larcher: "You've had a good deal of trouble over Murray
Davenport, and shown much kindness in his interest. I must apologize for
the trouble,--as his representative, you know,--and thank you for the
"Don't mention either," said Larcher, cordially. "I take it from your
tone," said Turl, smiling, "that my story doesn't alter the friendly
relations between us."
"Not in the least. I'll do all I can to help the illusion, both for the
sake of Murray Davenport that was and of you that are. It wouldn't do for
a conception like yours--so original and bold--to come to failure. Are
you going to turn in now?"
"Not if I may go part of the way home with you. This snow-storm is worth
being out in. Wait here till I get my hat and overcoat."
He guided Larcher into the drawing-room. As they entered, they came face
to face with a man standing just a pace from the threshold--a bulky man
with overcoat and hat on. His face was coarse and red, and on it was a
look of vengeful triumph.
"Just the fellow I was lookin' for," said this person to Turl. "Good
evening, Mr. Murray Davenport! How about my bunch of money?"
The speaker, of course, was Bagley.
BAGLEY SHINES OUT
"I beg pardon," said Turl, coolly, as if he had not heard aright.
"You needn't try to bluff _me_," said Bagley. "I've been on to your game
for a good while. You can fool some of the people, but you can't fool me.
I'm too old a friend, Murray Davenport."
"My name is Turl."
"Before I get through with you, you won't have any name at all. You'll
just have a number. I don't intend to compound. If you offered me my
money back at this moment, I wouldn't take it. I'll get it, or what's
left of it, but after due course of law. You're a great change artist,
you are. We'll see what another transformation'll make you look like.
We'll see how clipped hair and a striped suit'll become you."
Larcher glanced in sympathetic alarm at Turl; but the latter seemed
perfectly at ease.
"You appear to be laboring under some sort of delusion," he replied.
"Your name, I believe, is Bagley."
"You'll find out what sort of delusion it is. It's a delusion that'll go
through; it's not like your _ill_usion, as you call it--and very ill
"How do you know I call it that?" asked Turl, quickly. "I never spoke of
having an illusion, in your presence--or till this evening."
Bagley turned redder, and looked somewhat foolish.
"You must have been overhearing," added Turl.
"Well, I don't mind telling you I have been," replied Bagley, with
"It isn't necessary to tell me, thank you. And as that door is a thick
one, you must have had your ear to the keyhole."
"Yes, sir, I had, and a good thing, too. Now, you see how completely I've
got the dead wood on you. I thought it only fair and sportsmanlike"
--Bagley's eyes gleamed facetiously--"to let you know before I notify the
police. But if you can disappear again before I do that, it'll be a
mighty quick disappearance."
He started for the hall, to leave the house.
Turl arrested him by a slight laugh of amusement. "You'll have a simple
task proving that I am Murray Davenport."
"We'll see about that. I guess I can explain the transformation well
enough to convince the authorities."
"They'll be sure to believe you. They're invariably so credulous--and
the story is so probable."
"You made it probable enough when you told it awhile ago, even though I
couldn't catch it all. You can make it as probable again."
"But I sha'n't have to tell it again. As the accused person, I sha'n't
have to say a word beyond denying the identity. If any talking is
necessary, I shall have a clever lawyer to do it."
"Well, I can swear to what I heard from your own lips."
"Through a keyhole? Such a long story? so full of details? Your having
heard it in that manner will add to its credibility, I'm sure."
"I can swear I recognize you as Murray Davenport."
"As the accuser, you'll have to support your statement with the testimony
of witnesses. You'll have to bring people who knew Murray Davenport. What
do you suppose they'll swear? His landlady, for instance? Do you think,
Larcher, that Murray Davenport's landlady would swear that I'm he?"
"I don't think so," said Larcher, smiling.
"Here's Larcher himself as a witness," said Bagley.
"I can swear I don't see the slightest resemblance between Mr. Turl and
Murray Davenport," said Larcher.
"You can swear you _know_ he is Murray Davenport, all the same."
"And when my lawyer asks him _how_ he knows," said Turl, "he can only
say, from the story I told to-night. Can he swear that story is true, of
his own separate knowledge? No. Can he swear I wasn't spinning a yarn for
"I think you'll find me a difficult witness to drag anything out of," put
in Larcher, "if you can manage to get me on the stand at all. I can take
a holiday at a minute's notice; I can even work for awhile in some other
city, if necessary."
"There are others,--the ladies in there, who heard the story," said
"One of them didn't know Murray Davenport," said Turl, "and the other--I
should be very sorry to see her subjected to the ordeal of the
witness-stand on my account. I hardly think you would subject her to it,
Mr. Bagley,--I do you that credit."
"I don't know about that," said Bagley. "I'll take my chances of showing
you up one way or another, just the same. You _are_ Murray Davenport,
and I know it; that's pretty good material to start with. Your story has
managed to convince _me_, little as I could hear of it; and I'm not
exactly a 'come-on' as to fairy tales, at that--"
"It convinced you as I told it, and because of your peculiar sense of the
traits and resources of Murray Davenport. But can you impart that sense
to any one else? And can you tell the story as I told it? I'll wager you
can't tell it so as to convince a lawyer."
"How much will you wager?" said Bagley, scornfully, the gambling spirit
lighting up in him.
"I merely used the expression," said Turl. "I'm not a betting man."
"I am," said Bagley. "What'll you bet I can't convince a lawyer?"
"I'm not a betting man," repeated Turl, "but just for this occasion I
shouldn't mind putting ten dollars in Mr. Larcher's hands, if a lawyer
were accessible at this hour."
He turned to Larcher, with a look which the latter made out vaguely as a
request to help matters forward on the line they had taken. Not quite
sure whether he interpreted correctly, Larcher put in:
"I think there's one to be found not very far from here. I mean Mr.
Barry Tompkins; he passes most of his evenings at a Bohemian resort near
Sixth Avenue. He was slightly acquainted with Murray Davenport, though.
Would that fact militate?"
"Not at all, as far as I'm concerned," said Turl, taking a bank-bill from
his pocket and handing it to Larcher.
"I've heard of Mr. Barry Tompkins," said Bagley. "He'd do all right. But
if he's a friend of Davenport's--"
"He isn't a friend," corrected Larcher. "He met him once or twice in my
company for a few minutes at a time."
"But he's evidently your friend, and probably knows you're Davenport's
friend," rejoined Bagley to Larcher.
"I hadn't thought of that," said Turl. "I only meant I was willing to
undergo inspection by one of Davenport's acquaintances, while you told
the story. If you object to Mr. Tompkins, there will doubtless be some
other lawyer at the place Larcher speaks of."
"All right; I'll cover your money quick enough," said Bagley, doing so.
"I guess we'll find a lawyer to suit in that crowd. I know the place
Larcher and Bagley waited, while Turl went upstairs for his things. When
he returned, ready to go out, the three faced the blizzard together. The
snowfall had waned; the flakes were now few, and came down gently; but
the white mass, little trodden in that part of the city since nightfall,
was so thick that the feet sank deep at every step. The labor of walking,
and the cold, kept the party silent till they reached the place where
Larcher had sought out Barry Tompkins the night he received Edna's first
orders about Murray Davenport. When they opened the basement door to
enter, the burst of many voices betokened a scene in great contrast to
the snowy night at their backs. A few steps through a small hallway led
them into this scene,--the tobacco-smoky room, full of loudly talking
people, who sat at tables whereon appeared great variety of bottles and
glasses. An open door showed the second room filled as the first was. One
would have supposed that nobody could have heard his neighbor's words for
the general hubbub, but a glance over the place revealed that the noise
was but the composite effect of separate conversations of groups of three
or four. Privacy of communication, where desired, was easily possible
under cover of the general noise.
Before the three newcomers had finished their survey of the room,
Larcher saw Barry Tompkins signalling, with a raised glass and a grinning
countenance, from a far corner. He mentioned the fact to his companions.
"Let's go over to him," said Bagley, abruptly. "I see there's room
Larcher was nothing loath, nor was Turl in the least unwilling. The
latter merely cast a look of curiosity at Bagley. Something had indeed
leaped suddenly into that gentleman's head. Tompkins was manifestly not
yet in Turl's confidence. If, then, it were made to appear that all was
friendly between the returned Davenport and Bagley, why should
Tompkins, supposing he recognized Davenport upon Bagley's assertion,
conceal the fact?
Tompkins had managed to find and crowd together three unoccupied chairs
by the time Larcher had threaded a way to him. Larcher, looking around,
saw that Bagley had followed close. He therefore introduced Bagley first;
and then Turl. Tompkins had the same brief, hearty handshake, the same
mirthful grin--as if all life were a joke, and every casual meeting were
an occasion for chuckling at it--for both.
"I thought you said Mr. Tompkins knew Davenport," remarked Bagley to
Larcher, as soon as all in the party were seated.
"Certainly," replied Larcher.
"Then, Mr. Tompkins, you don't seem to live up to your reputation as a
quick-sighted man," said Bagley.
"I beg pardon?" said Tompkins, interrogatively, touched in one of
"Is it possible you don't recognize this gentleman?" asked Bagley,
indicating Turl. "As somebody you've met before, I mean?"
"Extremely possible," replied Tompkins, with a sudden curtness in his
voice. "I do _not_ recognize this gentleman as anybody I've met before.
But, as I never forget a face, I shall always recognize him in the future
as somebody I've met to-night." Whereat he grinned benignly at Turl, who
acknowledged with a courteous "Thank you."
"You never forget a face," said Bagley, "and yet you don't remember this
one. Make allowance for its having undergone a lot of alterations, and
look close at it. Put a hump on the nose, and take the dimples away, and
don't let the corners of the mouth turn up, and pull the hair down over
the forehead, and imagine several other changes, and see if you don't
make out your old acquaintance--and my old friend--Murray Davenport."
Tompkins gazed at Turl, then at the speaker, and finally--with a
wondering inquiry--at Larcher. It was Turl who answered the inquiry.
"Mr. Bagley is perfectly sane and serious," said he. "He declares I am
the Murray Davenport who disappeared a few months ago, and thinks you
ought to be able to identify me as that person."
"If you gentlemen are working up a joke," replied Tompkins, "I hope I
shall soon begin to see the fun; but if you're not, why then, Mr. Bagley,
I should earnestly advise you to take something for this."
"Oh, just wait, Mr. Tompkins. You're a well-informed man, I believe. Now
let's go slow. You won't deny the possibility of a man's changing his
appearance by surgical and other means, in this scientific age, so as
almost to defy recognition?"
"I deny the possibility of his doing such a thing so as to defy
recognition by _me_. So much for your general question. As to this
gentleman's being the person I once met as Murray Davenport, I can only
wonder what sort of a hoax you're trying to work."
Bagley looked his feelings in silence. Giving Barry Tompkins up, he said
to Larcher: "I don't see any lawyer here that I'm acquainted with. I was
a bit previous, getting let in to decide that bet to-night."
"Perhaps Mr. Tompkins knows some lawyer here, to whom he will introduce
you," suggested Turl.
"You want a lawyer?" said Tompkins. "There are three or four here. Over
there's Doctor Brady, the medico-legal man; you've heard of him, I
suppose,--a well-known criminologist."
"I should think he'd be the very man for you," said Turl to Bagley.
"Besides being a lawyer, he knows surgery, and he's an authority on the
habits of criminals."
"Is he a friend of yours?" asked Bagley, at the same time that his eyes
lighted up at the chance of an auditor free from the incredulity of
"I never met him," said Turl.
"Nor I," said Larcher; "and I don't think Murray Davenport ever did."
"Then if Mr. Tompkins will introduce Mr. Larcher and me, and come away at
once without any attempt to prejudice, I'm agreed, as far as our bet's
concerned. But I'm to be let alone to do the talking my own way."
Barry Tompkins led Bagley and Larcher over to the medico-legal
criminologist--a tall, thin man in the forties, with prematurely gray
hair and a smooth-shaven face, cold and inscrutable in expression--and,
having introduced and helped them to find chairs, rejoined Turl. Bagley
was not ten seconds in getting the medico-legal man's ear.
"Doctor, I've wanted to meet you," he began, "to speak about a remarkable
case that comes right in your line. I'd like to tell you the story, just
as I know it, and get your opinion on it."
The criminologist evinced a polite but not enthusiastic willingness to
hear, and at once took an attitude of grave attention, which he kept
during the entire recital, his face never changing; his gaze sometimes
turned penetratingly on Bagley, sometimes dropping idly to the table.
"There's a young fellow in this town, a friend of mine," Bagley went on,
"of a literary turn of mind, and altogether what you'd call a queer Dick.
He'd got down on his luck, for one reason and another, and was dead sore
on himself. Now being the sort of man he was, understand, he took the
most remarkable notion you ever heard of." And Bagley gave what Larcher
had inwardly to admit was a very clear and plausible account of the whole
transaction. As the tale advanced, the medico-legal expert's eyes
affected the table less and Bagley's countenance more. By and by they
occasionally sought Larcher's with something of same inquiry that those
of Barry Tompkins had shown. But the courteous attention, the careful
heeding of every word, was maintained to the end of the story.
"And now, sir," said Bagley, triumphantly, "I'd like to ask what you
think of that?"
The criminologist gave a final look at Bagley, questioning for the last
time his seriousness, and then answered, with cold decisiveness: "It's
"But I know it to be true!" blurted Bagley.
"Some little transformation might be accomplished in the way you
describe," said the medico-legal man. "But not such as would insure
against recognition by an observant acquaintance for any appreciable
length of time."
"But surely you know what criminals have done to avoid identification?"
"Better than any other man in New York," said the other, simply, without
"And you know what these facial surgeons do?"
"Certainly. A friend of mine has written the only really scientific
monograph yet published on the art they profess."
"And yet you say that what my friend has done is impossible?"
"What you say he has done is quite impossible. Mr. Tompkins, for
example, whom you cite as having once met your friend and then failed to
recognize him, would recognize him in ten seconds after any
transformation within possibility. If he failed to recognize the man you
take to be your friend transformed, make up your mind the man is
Bagley drew a deep sigh, curtly thanked the criminologist, and rose,
saying to Larcher: "Well, you better turn over the stakes to your
friend, I guess."
"You're not going yet, are you?" said Larcher.
"Yes, sir. I lose this bet; but I'll try my story on the police just the
same. Truth is mighty and will prevail."
Before Bagley could make his way out, however, Turl, who had been
watching him, managed to get to his side. Larcher, waving a good-night to
Barry Tompkins, followed the two from the room. In the hall, he handed
the stakes to Turl.
"Oh, yes, you win all right enough," admitted Bagley. "My fun will
"I trust you'll see the funny side of it," replied Turl, accompanying him
forth to the snowy street. "You haven't laughed much at the little
foretaste of the incredulity that awaits you."
"Never you mind. I'll make them believe me, before I'm through." He had
turned toward Sixth Avenue. Turl and Larcher stuck close to him.
"You'll have them suggesting rest-cures for the mind, and that sort of
thing," said Turl, pleasantly.
"And the newspapers will be calling you the Great American Identifier,"
put in Larcher.
"There'll be somebody else as the chief identifier," said Bagley, glaring
at Turl. "Somebody that knows it's you. I heard her say that much."
"Stop a moment, Mr. Bagley." Turl enforced obedience by stepping in
front of the man and facing him. The three stood still, at the corner,
while an elevated train rumbled along overhead. "I don't think you
really mean that. I don't think that, as an American, you would really
subject a woman--such a woman--to such an ordeal, to gain so little.
Would you now?"
"Why shouldn't I?" Despite his defiant look, Bagley had weakened a bit.
"I can't imagine your doing it. But if you did, my lawyer would have to
make you tell how you had heard this wonderful tale."
"Through the door. That's easy enough."
"We could show that the tale couldn't possibly be heard through so thick
a door, except by the most careful attention--at the keyhole. You would
have to tell my lawyer why you were listening at the keyhole--at the
keyhole of that lady's parlor. I can see you now, in my mind's eye,
attempting to answer that question--with the reporters eagerly awaiting
your reply to publish it to the town."
Bagley, still glaring hard, did some silent imagining on his own part. At
last he growled:
"If I do agree to settle this matter on the quiet, how much of that money
have you got left?"
"If you mean the money you placed in Murray Davenport's hands before he
disappeared, I've never heard that any of it has been spent. But isn't it
the case that Davenport considered himself morally entitled to that
amount from you?"
Bagley gave a contemptuous grunt; then, suddenly brightening up, he said:
"S'pose Davenport _was_ entitled to it. As you ain't Davenport, why, of
course, you ain't entitled to it. Now what have you got to say?"
"Merely, that, as you're not Davenport, neither are you entitled to it."
"But I was only supposin'. I don't admit that Davenport was entitled
to it. Ordinary law's good enough for me. I just wanted to show you
where you stand, you not bein' Davenport, even if he had a right to
"Suppose Davenport had given me the money?"
"Then you'd have to restore it, as it wasn't lawfully his."
"But you can't prove that I have it, to restore."
"If I can establish any sort of connection between you and Davenport, I
can cause your affairs to be thoroughly looked into," retorted Bagley.
"But you can't establish that connection, any more than you can convince
anybody that I'm Murray Davenport."
Bagley was fiercely silent, taking in a deep breath for the cooling of
his rage. He was a man who saw whole vistas of probability in a moment,
and who was correspondingly quick in making decisions.
"We're at a deadlock," said he. "You're a clever boy, Dav,--or Turl, I
might as well call you. I know the game's against me, and Turl you shall
be from now on, for all I've ever got to say. I did swear this evening to
make it hot for you, but I'm not as hot myself now as I was at that
moment. I'll give up the idea of causing trouble for you over that money;
but the money itself I must have."
"Do you need it badly?" asked Turl.
"_Need_ it!" cried Bagley, scorning the imputation. "Not me! The loss of
it would never touch me. But no man can ever say he's done me out of that
much money, no matter how smart he is. So I'll have that back, if I've
got to spend all the rest of my pile to get it. One way or another, I'll
manage to produce evidence connecting you with Murray Davenport at the
time he disappeared with my cash."
Turl pondered. Presently he said: "If it were restored to you,
Davenport's moral right to it would still be insisted on. The restoration
would be merely on grounds of expediency."
"All right," said Bagley.
"Of course," Turl went on, "Davenport no longer needs it; and certainly
_I_ don't need it."
"Oh, don't you, on the level?" inquired Bagley, surprised.
"Certainly not. I can earn a very good income. Fortune smiles on me."
"I shouldn't mind your holding out a thousand or two of that money when
you pay it over,--say two thousand, as a sort of testimonial of my
regard," said Bagley, good-naturedly.
"Thank you very much. You mean to be generous; but I couldn't accept
a dollar as a gift, from the man who wouldn't pay Murray Davenport
as a right."
"Would you accept the two thousand, then, as Murray Davenport's
right,--you being a kind of an heir of his?"
"I would accept the whole amount in dispute; but under that, not a cent."
Bagley looked at Turl long and hard; then said, quietly: "I tell you
what I'll do with you. I'll toss up for that money,--the whole amount. If
you win, keep it, and I'll shut up. But if I win, you turn it over and
never let me hear another word about Davenport's right."
"As I told you before, I'm not a gambling man. And I can't admit that
Davenport's right is open to settlement."
"Well, at least you'll admit that you and I don't agree about it. You
can't deny there's a difference of opinion between us. If you want to
settle that difference once and for ever, inside of a minute, here's your
chance. It's just cases like this that the dice are good for. There's a
saloon over on that corner. Will you come?"
"All right," said Turl. And the three strode diagonally across
"Gimme a box of dice," said Bagley to the man behind the bar, when they
had entered the brightly lighted place.
"They're usin' it in the back room," was the reply.
"Got a pack o' cards?" then asked Bagley.
The barkeeper handed over a pack which had been reposing in a cigar-box.
"I'll make it as sudden as you like," said Bagley to Turl. "One cut
apiece, and highest wins. Or would you like something not so quick?"
"One cut, and the higher wins," said Turl.
"Shuffle the cards," said Bagley to Larcher, who obeyed. "Help yourself,"
said Bagley to Turl. The latter cut, and turned up a ten-spot. Bagley
cut, and showed a six.
"The money's yours," said Bagley. "And now, gentlemen, what'll you have
The drinks were ordered, and taken in silence. "There's only one thing
I'd like to ask," said Bagley thereupon. "That keyhole business--it
needn't go any further, I s'pose?"
"I give you my word," said Turl. Larcher added his, whereupon Bagley
bade the barkeeper telephone for a four-wheeler, and would have taken
them to their homes in it. But they preferred a walk, and left him
waiting for his cab.
"Well!" exclaimed Larcher, as soon as he was out of the saloon. "I
congratulate you! I feared Bagley would give trouble. But how easily he
"You forget how fortunate I am," said Turl, smiling. "Poor Davenport
could never have brought him around."
"There's no doubting your luck," said Larcher; "even with cards."
"Lucky with cards," began Turl, lightly; but broke off all at once, and
looked suddenly dubious as Larcher glanced at him in the electric light.
The morning brought sunshine and the sound of sleigh-bells. In the
wonderfully clear air of New York, the snow-covered streets dazzled the
eyes. Never did a town look more brilliant, or people feel more blithe,
than on this fine day after the long snow-storm.
"Isn't it glorious?" Edna Hill was looking out on the shining white
gardens from Florence's parlor window. "Certainly, on a day like this, it
doesn't seem natural for one to cling to the past. It's a day for
beginning over again, if ever there are such days." Her words had
allusion to the subject on which the two girls had talked late into the
night. Edna had waited for Florence to resume the theme in the morning,
but the latter had not done so yet, although breakfast was now over.
Perhaps it was her father's presence that had deterred her. The incident
of the meal had been the arrival of a note from Mr. Bagley to Mr. Kenby,
expressing the former's regret that he should be unavoidably prevented
from keeping the engagement to go sleighing. As Florence had forgotten to
give her father Mr. Bagley's verbal message, this note had brought her in
for a quantity of paternal complaint sufficient for the venting of the
ill-humor due to his having stayed up too late, and taken too much
champagne the night before. But now Mr. Kenby had gone out, wrapped up
and overshod, to try the effect of fresh air on his headache, and of
shop-windows and pretty women on his spirits. Florence, however, had
still held off from the all-important topic, until Edna was driven to
introduce it herself.
"It's never a day for abandoning what has been dear to one,"
"But you wouldn't be abandoning him. After all, he really is the
"But I can't make myself regard him as the same. And he doesn't regard
"But in that case the other man has vanished. It's precisely as if he
were dead. No, it's even worse, for there isn't as much trace of him as
there would be of a man that had died. What's the use of being faithful
to such an utterly non-existent person? Why, there isn't even a grave, to
put flowers on;--or an unknown mound in a distant country, for the
imagination to cling to. There's just nothing to be constant to."
"There are memories."
"Well, they'll remain. Does a widow lose her memories of number one when
she becomes Mrs. Number Two?"
"She changes the character of them; buries them out of sight; kills them
with neglect. Yes, she is false to them."
"But your case isn't even like that. In these peculiar circumstances the
old memories will blend with the new.--And, dear me! he is such a nice
man! I don't see how the other could have been nicer. You couldn't find
anybody more congenial in tastes and manners, I'm sure."
"I can't make you understand, dear. Suppose Tom Larcher went away for a
time, and came back so completely different that you couldn't see the old
Tom Larcher in him at all. And suppose he didn't even consider himself
the same person you had loved. Would you love him then as you do now?"
Edna was silenced for a moment; but for a moment only. "Well, if he came
back such a charming fellow as Turl, and if he loved me as much as Turl
loves you, I could soon manage to drop the old Tom out of my mind. But of
course, you know, in my heart of hearts, I wouldn't forget for a moment
that he really was the old Tom."
The talk was interrupted by a knock at the door. The servant gave the
name of Mr. Turl. Florence turned crimson, and stood at a loss.
"You can't truly say you're out, dear," counselled Edna, in an undertone.
"Show him in," said Florence.
Florence looked and spoke coldly. "I told you I'd send a message when I
wished you to call."
He was wistful, but resolute. "I know it," he said. "But love doesn't
stand on ceremony; lovers are importunate; they come without
bidding.--Good morning, Miss Hill; you mustn't let me drive you away."
For Edna had swished across the room, and was making for the hall.
"I'm going to the drawing-room," she said, airily, "to see the
sleighs go by."
In another second, the door slammed, and Turl was alone with Florence. He
took a hesitating step toward her.
"It's useless," she said, raising her hand as a barrier between them. "I
can't think of you as the same. I can't see _him_ in you. I should have
to do that before I could offer you his place. All that I can love now
is the memory of him."
"Listen," said Turl, without moving. "I have thought it over. For your
sake, I will be the man I was. It's true, I can't restore the old face;
but the old outlook on life, the old habits, the old pensiveness, will
bring back the old expression. I will resume the old name, the old set of
memories, the old sense of personality. I said last night that a
resumption of the old self could be only mental, and incomplete even so.
But when I said that, I had not surrendered. The mental return can be
complete, and must reveal itself more or less on the surface. And the old
love,--surely where the feeling is the same, its outer showing can't be
utterly new and strange."
He spoke with a more pleading and reverent note than he had yet used
since the revelation. A moist shine came into her eyes.
"Murray--it _is_ you!" she whispered.
"Ah!--sweetheart!" His smile of the utmost tenderness seemed more of a
kind with sadness than with pleasure. It was the smile of a man deeply
sensible of sorrow--of Murray Davenport,--not that of one versed in good
fortune alone--not that which a potent imagination had made habitual to
She gave herself to his arms, and for a time neither spoke. It was she
who broke the silence, looking up with tearful but smiling eyes:
"You shall not abandon your design. It's too marvellous, too successful;
it has been too dear to you for that."
"It was dear to me when I thought I had lost you. And since then, the
pride of conceiving and accomplishing it, the labor and pain, kept it
dear to me. But now that I am sure of you, I can resign it without a
murmur. From the moment when I decided to sacrifice it, it has been
nothing to me, provided I could only regain you."
"But the old failure, the old ill luck, the old unrewarded drudgery,--no,
you sha'n't go back to them. You shall be true to the illusion--we shall
be true to it--I will help you in it, strengthen you in it! I needed only
to see the old Murray Davenport appear in you one moment. Hereafter you
shall be Francis Turl, the happy and fortunate! But you and I will have
our secret--before the world you shall be Francis Turl--but to me you
shall be Murray Davenport, too--Murray Davenport hidden away in Francis
Turl. To me alone, for the sake of the old memories. It will be another
tie between us, this secret, something that is solely ours, deep in our
hearts, as the knowledge of your old self would always have been deep in
yours if you hadn't told me. Think how much better it is that I share
this knowledge with you; now nothing of your mind is concealed from me,
and we together shall have our smile at the world's expense."
"For being so kind to Francis Turl, the fortunate, after its cold
treatment of Murray Davenport, the unlucky," said Turl, smiling. "It
shall be as you say, sweetheart. There can be no doubt about my good
fortune. It puts even the old proverb out. With me it is lucky in love as
well as at cards."
"What do you mean, dear?"
"The Bagley money--"
"Ah, that money. Listen, dear. Now that I have some right to speak, you
must return that money. I don't dispute your moral claim to it--such
things are for you to settle. But the danger of keeping it--"
"There's no longer any danger. The money is mine, of Bagley's own free
will and consent. I encountered him last night. He is in my secret now,
but it's safe with him. We cut cards for the money, and I won. I hate
gambling, but the situation was exceptional. He hoped that, once the
matter was settled by the cards, he should never hear a word about it
again. As he hadn't heard a word of it from me--Davenport--for years,
this meant that his own conscience had been troubling him about it all
along. That's why he was ready at last to put the question to a toss-up;
but first he established the fact that he wouldn't be 'done' out of the
money by anybody. I tell you all this, dear, in justice to the man; and
so, exit Bagley. As I said, my secret--_our_ secret--is safe with him. So
it is, of course, with Miss Hill and Larcher. Nobody else knows it,
though others besides you three may have suspected that I had something
to do with the disappearance."
"Only Mr. Bud."
"Larcher can explain away Mr. Bud's suspicions. Larcher has been a good
friend. I can never be grateful enough--"
A knock at the door cut his speech short, and the servant announced
Larcher himself. It had been arranged that he should call for Edna's
orders. That young lady had just intercepted him in the hall, to prevent
his breaking in upon what might be occurring between Turl and Miss Kenby.
But Florence, holding the door open, called out to Edna and Larcher to
come in. Something in her voice and look conveyed news to them both, and
they came swiftly. Edna kissed Florence half a dozen times, while Larcher
was shaking hands with Turl; then waltzed across to the piano, and for a
moment drowned the outside noises--the jingle of sleigh-bells, and the
shouts of children snowballing in the sunshine--with the still more
joyous notes of a celebrated march by Mendelssohn.
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